"The Fat Lady Has Sung for the Fourth Amendment"

Sacramento's KXTV reported on our lawsuit to enforce our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records about Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) policy of searching travelers’ laptops without suspicion of wrongdoing. We want to see the criteria used for selecting passengers for suspicionless searches, the number of people who have been subject to the searches, the number of devices and documents retained and the reasons for their retention. Pretty basic stuff, we think.

KXTV's article states:

"I don't carry my laptop overseas anymore," said Sacramento attorney Mark Reichel. "The fat lady has sung for the fourth amendment."

Reichel said one client who carries sensitive business information on his laptop on international trips sends the hard drive home separately by express mail.

You could also encrypt your hard drive, as the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Project public education director, Jay Stanley, suggested last month. But whether you're using software or express mail to get around the CBP's invasive policy, those solutions don't address the fact that the government is violating your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

KXTV’s news segment features ACLU National Security Project attorney Larry Schwartztol explaining why laptop searches at the border are different from traditional searches of luggage. As Larry explains, your luggage probably doesn’t contain personal documents and files, pictures of your family and friends, all of your email correspondence or sensitive business information.

Has your laptop been searched at the border? We want to hear your story. Contact us at "nspintake [at] aclu.org."

Add a comment (8)
Read the Terms of Use

debra johnson

my computer has never been searched at the border, but what about that sneaky little attachment the government put in the contract for the cash for clunkers? where they are able to access your e-mail, any personal information you have on your computer, etc.? why wasn't that being shouted all over the news, to warn people?

Lisa Warren

Could you post a story or any information that addresses parental rights regarding removing children from federal educational programs deemed inappropriate by the parent for the student.


Quite simple Debra, when the ACLU is in agreement with the administration that is in power, civil liberties tend to go out the window. Now if the Bush or Reagan administrations were pulling this crap, the "great defenders" of the Bill of right would surely be up in arms.


Ms. Johnson, let me direct you to an analysis of the cash for clunkers rules. Bottom line, your concerns are unfounded.


There are enough real privacy concerns to worry about Debra. Stop spreading that urban legend. http://www.snopes.com/computer/internet/clunkers.asp

Zach P

I'm pretty sure that applied to whatever information was uploaded to the cars.gov website, so it could be scanned for viruses and such.

Don G.

We need to get serious about privacy. Enough is enough.

Save The Bill O...

When the fourth amendment is ignored never forget the second!

Sign Up for Breaking News